Tag Archives: spaceflight

Progress…and Soyuz

Get it? HAR!

Week one of the revision is drawing to a close, and, while I’m not thrilled with my progress, I am at least satisfied that progress is being made. There’s always an adjustment period when switching between projects, and I’m just starting to overcome that. You all saw my list of things that I wanted to get done throughout the novel; I’ve converted a lot of that to more specific suggestions to myself for specific chapters, and I’m just starting to put my nose to the grindstone.

One lesson I learned from my first revision phase is to start at the beginning and work in a roughly chronological order through the rest of the story. That’s doesn’t mean that I can’t touch chapter 2 until chapter 1 is finished or anything like that, it just means that I want to work on one plot element and all that it entails at a time, in order. Last time, I wrote a lot in Part III and Part IV without even re-reading Part I and Part II, and it gave the novel a really disconnected feel that I had to spend additional time fixing.

Also, I had a few extra, boring minutes, and I made myself a cover mock-up. Let me know what you think in the comments! All images/fonts are licensed under Creative Commons or are in the public domain.

Cover Mockup

As pretty much every American knows, the last Space Shuttle flight just ended, and already the Russians are saying “it’s our space age now.” Sure didn’t take them long to start crowing, but it’s their right. SpaceX has said in the past that they could go from government approval to flying astronauts in three years, but that approval hasn’t yet arrived. Boeing’s CST-100 and others are even further behind.

I have nothing against the Russians, mind; their space program has been much more consistent than ours has, if more single-minded. You certainly don’t hear about Russian robots visiting other planets; NASA and ESA have the market cornered there. It’s not as though the egg is entirely on our face.

And the good news is, once the new ships start to arrive, we’ll have lots more options, and once the rockets that will carry those ships are ready, we’ll be able to put even more things in orbit. NASA might not be looking so good right now, but, in the grand scheme of things, spaceflight is doing okay.

Oh, except for the James Webb telescope. Every scientist ever wants it. Will Congress let them have it?

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting back to work. See you on Monday.


Godspeed Onward

As a few of you probably know, today was the launch of the very last Space Shuttle mission, STS-135. The shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Cape Canaveral at about 8:45 this morning. I tuned in for the last few minutes of the countdown and launch, and let me tell you: I was seriously tearing up. I didn’t expect to be affected by it at all, but there’s just something iconic about the shuttle. It’s been running missions my entire life, and now this is the very last one.

The president had better be serious when he’s talking about Mars missions. We’ve been jerked around enough before.

On the writing front, I more-or-less finished another short story this week. I planned to write 4 during by July 15 and instead I got only two, but that was probably a more realistic number anyway. I’m not done with either, not by a long shot, but they’re both solid platforms for revision, and that’s really what you want out of a first draft.

The second one, which I just finished this morning, I’m particularly interested in. It takes place in the same universe as the story that’ll appear in the NIWA anthology and in a genre I like to call “hopeful cyberpunk.” Basically, you take all of the technological trappings of cyberpunk–the mind/computer interfaces, cloning, genetic manipulation, corporate dominance–and you place them in a setting that’s not particularly punkish. Picture Star Trek‘s United Federation of Planets crossed with Neuromancer and you’ll get the idea. For whatever reasons, my stories tend to work best when they’re set in tech-heavy universes. Go figure.

Speaking of the NIWA anthology, I’m about halfway through my final edits for my story. The comments have been overwhelmingly positive, and not a ton needed to be changed. I think I’m going to rework the last scene, though; what I’d hoped was a climax didn’t seem to be serving its purpose, and there was a bit too much implication in the denouement. It’s got to be made more specific. Endings are hard, man…reading through the NIWA submissions really drove that home. Out of a dozen stories, all could stand some tweaking in the ending, and a few of them just plain failed in the last quarter. It’s hard.

With that, I’ll leave you with another tear-jerker of a video, produced by NPR:

Earth is Spaceship-tastic!

Horrible evening so far – I came home to discover that the dog had, at some point in the preceding hours, experienced uncontrollable diarrhea in his kennel. And my wife was in class. So, guess whose job it was to clean the crate, clean the dog, and sanitize our entire apartment? Yours truly, of course.

But let us not dwell on that, disgusting and fascinating as it is. Instead, let us talk about spaceships. What follows is an elementary introduction to the current “state of the art” of space travel – if you don’t know anything about it, then this will be a great place for you to start.

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Mars to Stay

I just happened to find this cool Wikipedia article while doing completely unrelated research. The idea of Mars to Stay is that the best way to establish a persistent colony on Mars – and prevent politicians from chickening out – is to send the first people over there without a way to come back. Bizarre, you say? Well, I kind of like the idea.

The idea isn’t that it’d be a suicide mission, even though it would be considerably dangerous. Instead, older astronauts would be selected with the idea that, already having a full life on Earth, they wouldn’t mind spending their last twenty or thirty years on the red planet paving the way for future colonists. They would receive regular shipments of supplies and additional colonists while they worked to develop the infrastructure for in situ resource utilization. They’d extract water from the soil, mine exposed metals, grow crops, and dig habitats for what would hopefully be a continual influx of new colonists.

Once the colony reached thirty or forty people, they would have a sufficiently stable genetic pool that they could start to grow themselves “the old-fashioned way.” Maybe in vitro fertilization would help here; I’m not sure of that.

I’m like 90% sure that this will never happen, just because it makes a terrible sound bite. Who would have the political will to send people to another planet to die? Not in this Congress. Never mind the fact that you would probably have thousands of volunteers, and even if only one tenth of one percent of those turned out to be suitable you’d have crew for a dozen missions.

Anyway, there’s cool stuff in that article, so I’d recommend checking it out and reading some of the editorials it links to. This is really what space travel is all about – humans will have to leave the Earth eventually, and daring exploits are needed to get the job done.

The Cost of Private Spaceflight

I was reading an editorial by Robert Zubrin on the Mars Society website yesterday, and although he waxes extremely dramatic in the article, one of the things he said gave me pause. Referring to the Falcon 9/Dragon launch last week, he said:

The SpaceX team…accomplished a feat previously reserved for major governments.  They did it on a budget one-tenth the size and a schedule one-quarter the length of that assumed as necessary by conventional bureaucratic planners in America.

I can’t verify those “numbers” such as they are, but it did lead me to do a little bit of research on my own.

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Super Important Falcon 9/Dragon Update URGENT

Apparently there was a lot of speculation yesterday about a “secret payload” (Top Secret, even) on the Dragon spacecraft, known only the privileged upper echelons of SpaceX’s ranks.

Today that secret payload was revealed!

From SpaceX’s press release:

SpaceX Reveal’s Dragon’s “Secret” Payload

Before the successful launch, voyage, and recovery of SpaceX’s Dragon Spacecraft, the first time in history a commercial company has recovered a spacecraft from orbit, reporters were buzzing with news of a “secret” payload, stowed on board.

It was a payload so secret, SpaceXers made it Top Secret (think Val Kilmer 1984, not official US Government).

Top Secret cargo!

So what was inside the mystery package? Their tribute to Monty Python.

A wheel of cheese.

Bravo, SpaceX. May all of your space voyages involve cultured foodstuffs.

An Historic Day

As a longtime cheerleader of private spaceflight company SpaceX, I’m absolutely thrilled to announce this morning that the second launch of their Falcon 9 rocket was completely successful. Its payload was the new Dragon spacecraft, also developed by SpaceX; the Dragon made several complete orbits of the Earth and successfully re-entered the atmosphere a few hours after launch.

To quote SpaceX’s press release,

This marks the first time a commercial company has successfully recovered a spacecraft reentering from low-Earth orbit. It is a feat performed by only six nations or government agencies: the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India, and the European Space Agency.

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